The sidelined Berwick organic feed mill – the former flagship of the collapsed Homestead Organics operation – is expected to be up and running under new ownership by September. Van Dusen photo
BERWICK – The sidelined Berwick organic feed mill is expected to be up and running under new ownership by September.
Former flagship of the collapsed Homestead Organics operation, the mill will also have a new name: Greenside Organics. The name change isn’t a slight on Homestead, said buyer Peter Jegachandran; legal issues require new company identification.
While Jegachandran has limited agricultural experience, he does own cropland which he leases to conventional farmers. A businessman involved in software development and commercial storage, he sees tremendous future potential in the organics sector and in the Berwick facility. He owns 100 acres at Richmond and another 250 acres at Bowmanville; he`s eyeing Richmond as a possible future location for organic goats and cattle.
Jegachandran is currently awaiting organic certification on the former Homestead mill which must be renewed as part of the ownership change. He hopes to fill the void in the Eastern Ontario organic sector left by the departure of Homestead by recapturing former customers and lining up new ones.
Homestead was forced to close after it spread itself financially thin through rapid expansion. Once the darling of the sector, in 2011 Homestead founder Tom Manley was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Organic Council of Ontario; he no longer holds any executive positions with organic organizations.
Stating it would be foolish not to take advantage of Manley`s 30 years of experience, Jegachandran has hired him as a consultant in setting up the business, which will offer all the services that Homestead provided including a retail section for organic flour and other products. The new owner is also examining how he might work non-GMO into the mix at the Berwick mill.
With plants at Berwick, Sebringville, and Morrisburg, Homestead was realizing annual revenues in the millions of dollars and, at its peak, had an employee roster of 27. Just before the crash, Sebringville was sold; Morrisburg remains empty and up for sale.
The Berwick sale was conducted by the liquidation trustee on the file. Manley said he has mixed emotions about the outcome, on one hand sad to see the Berwick arm of the business that he built from scratch shift into other hands while happy that it’ll come back into organic processing. He said it could take some time for the new owner to build back clientele forced to find alternatives after Homestead closed.
“The main grieving came when we had to clear out the mill,’’ Manley said of the facility established when he relocated organic processing from the family farm in 1997. My main feeling now is happiness that it’ll return to service.’’
Since termination, Manley has busied himself with his three favourite occupations: ballroom dancing, giving lessons with wife and business partner Isabelle; baking and sale of organic sourdough bread; and consulting in all things related to conducting organic business.
One of his other interests has been politics. Following in his grandfather Peter`s footsteps who served 12 years as a Liberal MPP, Manley ran unsuccessfully both federally and provincially for the Green Party and the Liberal Party. He emphasized the days of active party politics are behind him.
With business consulting taking a greater foothold, Manley said he may be forced to give up the bread baking sideline. As for dancing: ‘’I`ll always dance.’